NFL Network signed up one of its two remaining major holdouts today when Cablevision signed a multiyear deal to carry NFL Network and NFL RedZone. The channels will go live on Cablevision systems tomorrow: NFL Net on Cablevision's expanded basic package (iO Preferred) and NFL RedZone on its sports tier (iO Sports & Entertainment Pak). The deal comes as a surprise, since Cablevision CEO James Dolan has said in the past that Cablevision wasn't likely to carry NFL Net as long as the NFL offers its "Sunday Ticket" package exclusively to DirecTV. The launch of the popular NFL RedZone channel on cable seems to have been enough for Cablevision. NFL Net also expanded its live game schedule to 13 Thursday night games this fall, though those games are offered over-the-air in the participating teams' home markets. The move leaves Time Warner Cable as the only distributor to not carry the channel. TWC was close to a deal with NFL Net last fall before talks ended. NFL Net says the two sides have not had meaningful negotiations. "We are not talking, regrettably," said NFL Media COO Brian Rolapp. "We are not close...The market has been set for some time." For its part, TWC said negotiations have been occurring with the league. "Conversations are ongoing and we remain hopeful that we can reach a resolution. But we have been close before only to have it fall apart so we need to be cautious about predicting success," a TWC spokesperson said in an emailed statement. Cablevision has about 3.3 million basic video homes, and this deal will put NFL Net in half or more of them. As of last month, NFL Net was in close to 60 million U.S. homes. In a prepared statement from the press release, Cablevision's Exec VP/Programming Mac Budill said: "We know there is significant interest in the NFL Network and NFL RedZone among our Optimum TV customers."
The Pac-12 Networks' launch last night “looked better than The Mtn. looked on Day 2,100,” according to Scott Pierce of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. The Pac-12 Nets' studios “aren’t built out of cardboard” and neither “are its studio hosts.” The shows, the graphics, the highlights packages, the football preview show “all had the sheen of a professional production.” Pierce: “The Mtn., this isn’t.” Pac-12 Networks' viewers “got an HD signal from the get-go, not years later.” Yesterday’s launch was “chock full of bragging about the ‘conference of champions,’” but “what else were you expecting from the Pac-12 Networks?” There was “lots of talk about the online elements -- dubbed TV Everywhere” but there was “no talk about the lack of a deal with either DirecTV or Dish Network” (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 8/16). In Arizona, Patrick Finley noted the Cox Communications HD feed in Tucson “did not air the first minutes of ‘Pac-12 Live,’ though the standard-definition feed did.” The hi-def feed “was activated around 9 p.m.” (AZSTARNET.com, 8/15). The nets yesterday also “named Jeremy Bloom their latest football analyst” (AZSTARNET.com, 8/15).
GREAT SCOTT: Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said of launching the Pac-12 Networks, “A lot of change went into putting us in a position to get that major deal with ESPN and Fox to be able to launch your own TV network. … A lot went on behind-the-scenes before we were in a position to optimize our media rights value. Down the road, people will look back and see our ability to launch her own TV networks as the real dramatic game changer. From day one, we’re going to have full national cable distribution … and have enough subscriber fees to completely fund it ourselves and to own it completely ourselves. Pretty unusual.” The net “will pay for itself without touching the ESPN/Fox money that’s going to the schools. We did not have to take an equity partner.” The “equal revenue sharing” among the schools “is so important from my perspective in that the hallmark of any successful conference or league is strength and competitive equity from top to bottom” (“Sportfolio,” Bloomberg TV, 8/15).
SOLID START: SB NATION’s Avinash Kunnath wrote, “All in all, this was a solid debut for a conference network that's just beginning to find its footing; it showcased the best of the Olympics and gave us a glimpse of the football that's on its way.” The early signs are that “the programming is definitely giving the conference the type of early look they've long deserved” (SBNATION.com, 8/16). CBSSPORTS.com’s Dennis Dodd wrote when the Pac-12 Networks debuted in San Diego yesterday, there “were more subscribers in that market to the Big Ten Network.” This is “not to disparage the Pac-12 Network or elevate the Big Ten Network,” rather it is “a call for calm.” The Pac-12's network launched “like a digital hydra.” There are “seven of them bound for glory and riches, the Pac-12 believes. A source said that the net “projected an eventual subscriber base of 15 million to 18 million, about a third of the Big Ten Network.” Dodd: “What’s the number, today, at launch? Maybe 10 million” (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/15).
TWITTER REAX: On Twitter, numerous fans and viewers posted tweets requesting that their TV providers carry Pac-12 Networks, and some even received responses. Cal women's basketball assistant coach Kai Felton: "Okay @directv if you don't pick up #Pac12Networks I'm going w Comcast. Hurry up already! You've only got until 9/1! #IWantMyPac12Networks." Univ. of Arizona Public Affairs Manager Sara Hammond: "Hey @Dish - Pac12 Networks launched tonight. Where ARE you?" Official Dish Network customer support Twitter feed: "@ArizonaWildcat We do not have any information on the Pac 12 Networks at this time. We have added a request for you!"
HBO announced that Tuesday's episode of "Hard Knocks," was the “second-most watched edition of the series ever” with 984,000 viewers, up 34% from last week's episode, according to Dave Hyde of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. The only "Hard Knocks" episode that “had more viewers was the finale of the 2010 series” involving the Jets , which “had just more than 1 million viewers” (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 8/15). HBO Sports President Ken Hershman said that there “wasn’t much discussion as to whether they should air the conversation between” coach Joe Philbin and former WR Chad Johnson when he was released Sunday night. Hershman said, “It was obvious for us. That was a delicate one, but it played out well” (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 8/15). ESPN’s Marcellus Wiley said cutting Johnson on-camera was a “good call because when you do ‘Hard Knocks’ you sign on for the good, the bad and the ugly and we saw it be kind of ugly” on Tuesday night (“SportsNation,” ESPN2, 8/15). The Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein said of Johnson, “He'll be a broadcaster though if he can keep most of the cuss words out” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 8/15).
TOUGH LOVE: The SUN-SENTINEL's Hyde writes rookie TE Michael Egnew became “one of the unintentional stars of the second episode” of "Hard Knocks." Egnew was “ripped loudly by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.” Hyde: “It was great TV for viewers. It was raw and real TV for us in the media.” It also explained, once again, why when Philbin “announced a few months ago the Dolphins would do the show, most veterans groaned.” They “didn't want cameras and microphones in places where cameras and microphones don't belong.” Hyde wrote, “This is why most players don’t enjoy ‘Hard Knocks.’ Sure, who cares about the players. If they can't take the criticism, they're not tough enough anyhow. Criticism is one thing. Embarrassment, another.” But one has to wonder if Philbin “grasped the invasive nature of this show in allowing it.” The Dolphins “benefit as an organization” because the Bengals went “from bottom of the league in merchandise sales to middle of the pack after” their appearance on the series. Hyde: “The show won't get in the way of winning, as the last two participating teams made the playoffs. But will it help it?” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/16). Lions DE Cliff Avril said "Hard Knocks" is “probably one of the more real shows on TV” because it shows “how cutthroat the NFL is.” He added, “Some of this stuff we learn for the first time, too, just by watching” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/16). Dolphins WR Roberto Wallace said, “At the end of the day it's a show. That's what they'll do. Obviously they pointed out all of the negatives which is part of the show. People like drama more than anything. They did it to Vontae (Davis) last week.” And Egnew yesterday was asked “if he got any texts from friends or family after the show [Tuesday] night, either offering support or perhaps some good-natured ribbing.” Egnew said, “I shut my phone off” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 8/15).
NBC Sports Network "has been a blip in a universe dominated by ESPN," but during the London Games it was "temporarily transformed," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The net's viewership "swelled sixfold, to 977,000 a day," marking an audience equivalent to the "one CNN gets on election nights." NBC Sports Group President Jon Miller said, "This has exceeded all our predictions." But, Sandomir writes, until the '14 Sochi Games, the net "returns to reality, meaning a regular schedule that has experienced reduced prime-time viewership" in '12 compared to last year. Most of the net's "new additions are studio shows and not the live-action sports that NBC Sports Network so desperately needs." There are also "no defining personalities among the channel's regular hosts and game announcers." NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said, "We all know this is a five-year plan to make it a bigger sports network. No one here believes, 'You did the Olympics, now we expect your ratings to go up 20 percent.' I'm hoping we get more people to sample the network" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/16).
STREAM-LINED: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Miriam Gottfried writes for NBC, "a more remarkable feat" than the net's ratings "may have been its apparent success" with live streaming the London Games. NBC Sports indicated that pay-TV customers "registered 9.9 million devices on NBCOlympics.com or on the NBCOlympics Live Extra app for mobile devices -- believed to be the most ever for a single, 'TV Everywhere' event." NBC's experience also "demonstrated the rising importance of online streaming to paying cable subscribers as a way of retaining customers in the face of so-called cord cutting." While streaming content across digital devices to paying cable subscribers "isn't an antidote to cord-cutting," NBC's Olympics experience "shows networks may have ways to manage the transition away from traditional TV viewing" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/16).
NEIGHBORS TO THE NORTH: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes, "Canadians couldn’t get enough of the Olympic coverage live and on tape via the TV consortium of Bell and Rogers." The Consortium indicated that "viewership was up" 88% over the '08 Beijing Games. TV viewership in Canada increased 13% "during the Games versus the same days last year." The ratings "justify CTV’s gamble in borrowing the Games’ rights from CBC for four years." But it likely "still won’t turn the 2010/ 2012 Olympic package (bought for $153-million) into a financial winner." Had the Consortium’s "healthy digital numbers produced similarly healthy revenues, they might have broken even" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/16).